Selective Focus: How to Take Interesting Nature Photos Under Lackluster Conditions

Harper HawkOne of the most common barriers to an aspiring nature photographer is their lack of  access to a photogenic wildlife habitat. I’m fortunate to live in the Northeast which is full of wildlife opportunities; however there’s always potential for a great shot regardless of your surroundings. Travel and wildlife photographer Chris McLennan, snapped one of his most publicized images, sitting in a cafe while a hummingbird was passing by. He happened to have his camera at the ready and captured a stunning image of the ruby-throated beauty.

The best way to work around an unattractive backdrop is using a very shallow depth of field. I captured this harper hawk image in a rather lackluster setting. By using a large aperture and focusing on the beak and eyes, I was able to “pull” the hawk out of the scene making the background obsolete.

HY2A8712Another important consideration is the angle of your shot. I snapped this crab photo at high noon on an empty beach. This is not exactly an ideal setting for an interesting photograph. By laying down on the wet sand I was able to get eye to eye with the crustacean, providing for a more stately portrait. This angle also created a reflection on the wet beach that I wouldn’t have captured had I shot this standing up. Using an aperture of f2.8 was helpful to this scene as well. The sharpness of your subject is more dramatic when juxtaposed with a blurred foreground.

Lastly, don’t wait for a trophy specimen to stumble by you before getting out the camera. I find that shooting everyday subjects can be just as rewarding. In fact, it offers a fun challenge and puts your photographic creativity to the test. I’ve spent hours photographing blue jays, robins, and other abundant species around the backyard. Doing so, forces you to be creative and will lead you to explore new functions on your camera that you didn’t dare experiment with before.

HY2A9509You’d be hard pressed to walk around my yard without hearing a chorus of tree fogs and peepers, but I don’t take for granted the photographic possibilities. The bottom line is, work with what you have at your disposal. Perhaps its just an iphone, and a butterfly on your porch. Does this mean you can’t make a great image? I think I know how Chase Jarvis would answer that question.

6 responses

  1. Terrific photos and tips!

    May 9, 2013 at 8:28 pm

  2. Wow … stunning and beautiful – that crab photo are so … amazing, Chris. And the two frogs having spring feelings – wonderful.
    I will never any great on catching creatures … of any kind – don’t have the patience – so I stick to my flowers and greens, they are more easy targets for me.
    I wish you a pleasant weekend .. and brighten my sunny day up even more. Love the gentleness in your photos … even when they are powerful like your bears and the eagle.

    May 10, 2013 at 9:29 am

    • Thanks for the very nice words Viveka! A wonderful weekend to you as well. :)

      May 11, 2013 at 7:18 am

      • Always a true pleasure to land in your world, Chris.

        May 12, 2013 at 3:35 am

  3. Wonderful photos! Thank you for sharing the photo tips with us!

    May 27, 2013 at 11:44 am

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